The Mason List

An epic love. An epic hate. An epic love story that would last a lifetime.

Today, 8:15 p.m.
I hurt. I hurt so deeply, I felt the searing in my bones and jabbing like a hot poker in my heart. I knew nothing would make it better as the memories pulled from the crevices of my mind, detailing the bad and the ugly, filling my thoughts with regret as I slipped into the darkness…

When I was eight, my mother was dying of cancer, my father lost his job, and the bank kicked us out of our house. I was forced to move to the strange town of Arlis, Texas where my father and I slept in our car in the hospital parking lot. Desperate and hopeless, we lived on fumes of our former life.

Then one night, everything changed forever. A knock on the car window brought a family into my life that I only wanted to shut out. I hated charity and I hated the Masons. Well, except one. He made it impossible to hate him.

Jess Mason had the biggest blue eyes and ornery smile of anybody I had ever seen. He was a ray of sunshine in my dark world. A boy full of adventure, dragging me across the meadow of Sprayberry Ranch; a beautiful Texas paradise full of horses and tree houses that got us into more trouble than anyone every imagined. 

Jess was my everything as a kid until we grew up and the rules changed. Instead of living happily ever after with a boy full of love …I destroyed it.
– Alex Tanner

448 pages; New Adult/Romance; 2015

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That hook.

An epic love. An epic hate. An epic love story that would last a lifetime.

It deceived me.

The chapters detailing the circumstances of Alex’s childhood pre-Masons were the only parts that felt real to me. The move, having to watch her father disintegrate in a hospital bed, losing her childhood home, having to live in a car …that was worth reading. It was the only time I felt anything.

Everything else? Not so much.

When Alex and Jess meet, they’re only eight years old but the author never does depict them as children. They roam hospital hallways without supervision, they zip around ranches on four-wheelers alone with the approval of their parents; they get into so much trouble because they’re never looked after.

The year I turned eighteen, my best friend and I gave birth five weeks apart – she had a girl and I had a boy. They’re ten years old now and you can pick any moment to eavesdrop on their conversations and the difference between actual children and the realistic ones portrayed here are very apparent. The dialogue between Alex and Jess doesn’t have a “young” feel to it and the topics they trade back and forth about are nothing I’d expect people at their age to steer around.

The two families are joined for this lifetime as the Masons take Alex and her father under their wing – financially, for the most part. The Masons are still considered “Mister” and “Mrs” to Alex, underlining a disconnect shouldn’t have existed since the Masons were so generous without boundaries when it came to what Alex needed materialistically. But there was no warmth there, no mother figure to help ease Alex into a woman’s shoes; the generosity didn’t spread into a relationship, a bond, personal connection. That was a little disheartening.

But it gave me an opening to the possibility of a potential amazing plot twist! Maybe the Masons were responsible for the death of Alex’s mother and they had no choice but to give and give to assure that the family left behind would live a life of luxury and comfort in the hopes of making amends. Maybe Alex was really Mrs Mason’s daughter (of course, Jess would also have to be adopted) from a previous shattered relationship but she couldn’t properly claim her because she was a a daily reminder of a love that didn’t last.

I know. I was grasping at straws.

But those maybe twists were what kept me reading because this “epic love” wasn’t doing it for me. I love childhood love stories. I had high hopes for this. But if I, the reader, couldn’t see what was so special about the main character, how was her knight in shining armour who she’s known for nearly all her life, supposed to? Alex spend the majority of the book so spiteful towards her benefactors and her disdain dripped into every chapter, somehow taking away from everything else. She spends her childhood clothed in anger (and I get that) but then her teenage years are upon her and another moment of genuine charity arises  and Angry Alex makes another appearance. The same thing happens in her adult years. I was waiting for a chapter that had Alex pull herself together, admit that her life was picked up off the streets because of this family. I wanted a scene with her addressing the Masons humbly and with true gratitude. It never came.

Jess, on the other hand, was much easier to like than Alex but even he wasn’t enough to save this book for me. I didn’t feel the passion or the longing or the lifelong ache to finally be with the girl he’s wanted for so long. I know that happily ever afters that come too late are an issue with some readers but so long as it’s done well, I don’t mind it. But if a love story is going to stretch over decades and this many pages, especially one that doesn’t even really begin until much later, I need that pull, that tug in my heart, that drop in my stomach.

The ending would have been tragic if I played the scenario in my mind’s eye but not with these characters and not in the way it was written. It was rushed and I turned the last page without shedding a tear or wanting to.

did really love one thing about this story – Jess’ solution to The Mason List. I would have loved for the paying it forward aspect to be the central focus of the storyline. Alex and Jess could have stumbled into love in that universe too and maybe having that mission in common paired with a childhood spent side by side could have made for an epic love, a 5 macaron read. I wish that’s what I read instead.

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  • “These Masons didn’t just come into your life slowly; they arrived with the force of a hurricane.”
  • “Sometimes I feel growin’ up together, there’s a little piece of you that grew inside me. I couldn’t leave you if I tried.”
  • “We’ve got somethin’ that people look for their whole lives. We just found it when we were eight. Because of that, I can wait a little bit longer.”
  • “After months of hurt, the rope holding us together was growing stronger. That’s what happens when something severs a tie. A new one has to be woven in place around the broken threads, making it bigger and tougher than what existed before the ripping pain.”



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